On this site I recently read that it was possible, that the meaning of a word could change if you change the stressed syllable. The example was:

[trotz-'dem] meaning altough (as obwohl colloquial use)

compared to

['trotz-dem] meaning however.

  • Are there other words changing their meaning, if the accent is changed?

I've heard, for instance ['wa-rum] and [wa-'rum] or [des-'we-gen] and ['des-we-gen] but I'm not able to distinguish if this is a normal difference due to regional accents or they have different meanings.

  • 2
    I think you'll be better of distinguishing by context compared to accentuation
    – adibender
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 1:33
  • I don't use trotzdem in the sense of obwohl, so I would certainly pronounce it incorrectly if this is true what you're saying ;)
    – Em1
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 11:30
  • @Em1 then I didn't understand Emanuel's comment here: "The difference between the normal "trotzdem" (adverb) and the verb last one "subord. Conj." is stress... TROTZdem vs. trotzDEM. If this stress is not made clearly, people will not understand the "trotzdem" to be the second one and the sentence will sound wrong and change the meaning."
    – c.p.
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 11:46
  • He might be correct. But I tend to agree with adibender that context is more important than pronunciation. As said, I don't use this word in the "obwohl"-sense, so I wouldn't realise a different pronunciation.
    – Em1
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 15:41
  • 1
    The trotzdem-although use is incredibly rare. That's why it is sooo crucial to do the stress. Otherwise people's grammar brain will make false assumptions which it then has to reevaluate when the verb doesn't come and then everyone is like "What? What structure is that?" ... the "trotzDEM" mimics the "obWOHL"... don't know if that is the only reason but it might be
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


I agree that the difference you are aluding to exists, e.g.

"TrotzDEM ich starke Kopfschmerzen hatte, bin ich zum Training gegangen." (i.e. in the meaning of trotzdessen, or obwohl as you said)


"Ich hatte starke Kopfschmerzen, TROTZdem bin ich zum Training gegangen." (here you could use nichtsdestotrotzinstead, or also trotzdessen, contrary to trotzdem you wouldn`t make a difference in accentuation though).

The first usage however is quite antiquated and isn't used often in today's german. As for a part of your question, if someone uses it that way (or other words for which such a difference exists), you'll probably catch the difference rather intuitively based on context and sentence structure (altough the differnce in accentuation is there too). I think catching it based on accentuation alone would be difficult (depending on dialect etc.) even for native speakers. I agree with @Emanuell's comment however that the it will sound weird in the first example if you use the second accentuation.

Right now I can't think of another (more modern) example of a word that has different meaning based on accentuation, but I'll try to think of something...

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